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Climate Change Will Hurt Kids Most, Report Warns

THURSDAY, Nov. 14, 2019 — Children will face more food shortages and infections if climate change continues unchecked, researchers from the World Health Organization and 34 other institutions warn.

Climate change is already harming children’s health. And they’re at risk for lifelong health threats unless the world meets Paris Agreement targets to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the scientists reported in the Nov. 14 issue of The Lancet.

“This year, the accelerating impacts of climate change have become clearer than ever,” said Hugh Montgomery, co-chair of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.

“The highest recorded temperatures in Western Europe and wildfires in Siberia, Queensland and California triggered asthma, respiratory infections and heat stroke. Sea levels are now rising at an ever-concerning rate. Our children recognize this climate emergency and demand action to protect them. We must listen, and respond,” Montgomery said in a journal news release.

Montgomery is director of University College London’s Institute for Human Health and Performance, in the United Kingdom.

The health impact of climate change needs to be at the top of the agenda at the UN Climate Conference (COP25) next month in Madrid, the scientists urged.

Without action, children born today will live in a world that’s an average of more than 4 degrees Celsius warmer by age 71, posing a risk to their health at every stage of their lives, the report stated.

These children will face rising food prices and increased risk of malnutrition, according to the scientists. They noted there have been declines in average global yield potential of maize (?4%), winter wheat (?6%), soybean (?3%) and rice (?4%) over the past 30 years.

Children will also be at high risk from the climate change-related rise in infectious diseases. Last year was “the second most climatically suitable year on record” for the spread of bacteria that cause many cases of diarrhea and wound infection cases worldwide, the researchers noted.

Also, as kids born today progress through their teens, the health harms of air pollution will worsen. And as they move into adulthood, extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and wildfires, will intensify.

Meeting the Paris Agreement target to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius could allow a child born today to grow up in a world that reaches net-zero emissions by age 31 and to provide a healthier future for coming generations, according to the report.

The journal’s Countdown on Health and Climate Change is a yearly analysis of what action to meet the Paris Agreement targets — or inaction — means for human health. The project is a collaboration among 120 experts from 35 institutions.

According to Dr. Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown, “Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of a changing climate. Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants. The damage done in early childhood is persistent and pervasive, with health consequences lasting for a lifetime.”

Watts said, “Without immediate action from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, gains in well-being and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation.”

More information

The World Health Organization has more on climate change and health.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: November 2019

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With Time Change, Use That Extra Hour for Sleep

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) — When the clocks fall back this Sunday, more than 4 in 10 Americans plan to sleep during that extra hour, a new survey finds.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) asked more than 2,000 adults what they plan to do with the extra hour when daylight saving time ends on Nov. 3.

Sleep was the top response (41%), followed by spending the extra hour with friends and family (13%) enjoying a relaxing activity (13%), doing housework and running errands (6%), and catching up on work or studies (5%).

“It’s encouraging that people are waking up to the importance of sleep for their health and well-being,” AASM president Dr. Kelly Carden said in an academy news release. “The end of daylight saving time is a good reminder that sleep is essential for health, and it is an opportunity to make a commitment to talk to a medical provider about any ongoing sleep problems.”

While getting an extra hour of sleep won’t eliminate a sleep deficit, waking up feeling more refreshed and alert after the time change may help motivate people to give sleep greater priority, Carden added.

Sleep needs vary among people, but everyone should ensure they get enough sleep regularly to wake feeling refreshed and alert, according to the AASM.

If you consistently wake up feeling unrefreshed, or have difficulty staying awake throughout the day, it’s a warning sign that you are not getting enough sleep or that you may have a sleep disorder.

If you’re sleep-deprived and want to get an extra hour of sleep when daylight saving time ends, the academy suggests this strategy.

Don’t change your clocks until it’s time for bed. Go to bed at your usual bedtime. Just before getting into bed, set your clocks back one hour. Wake up at your regular wake time, which means you’ll have had an extra hour of sleep. Take note of how much better you feel after that extra sleep time.

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Sources

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, October 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Colorado’s Hemp Program Must Change to Fit USDA Rules

Most hemp farmers across the country got a big boost when the United States Department of Agriculture released its first round of industrial hemp regulations earlier this week; the new rules took effect today, October 31.

“I applaud the USDA for moving forward on hemp rulemaking and recognizing hemp production as an agricultural activity,” Senator Cory Gardner said in a statement after the regulations were announced. “Legalized hemp has the potential to be a major boon to agricultural communities across Colorado, giving farmers another viable and profitable option for their fields.”

But for farmers in states like Colorado, where hemp has been an established crop for almost five years, the new rules might not seem so progressive.

The language of last year’s Farm Bill, the measure that legalized hemp, permits states to submit plans for their own hemp regulations, follow the USDA’s regulations, or ban hemp production altogether. While the Colorado Department of Agriculture has indicated that it will submit a new hemp plan to the USDA in 2020, the state ag department had already implemented its own plan long before hemp was legalized federally late last year, and under that plan, Colorado became of the largest hemp-producing states in the country.

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Shawn Hauser, a hemp attorney with Vicente Sederberg, says that Colorado will have to alter some of its hemp regulations to align more closely with the USDA regulations, and that could mean tighter rules for this state’s farmers. Under the new, USDA-approved regulations, Colorado hemp farmers are likely to face stricter testing requirements for THC levels, she says, and have less opportunity to mitigate hot hemp, or plants that test above the federal government’s maximum allowable level of THC (0.3 percent) in industrial hemp.

“The way the federal regulations are set up, they’re going to affect every state significantly. Testing and sampling, specifically, are different from what most states have in practice,” Hauser explains. “Federal rules are pretty strict with requiring hot hemp to be destroyed by a DEA agent. There is no opportunity for remediation or correction.”

The new FDA rules do allow a “measurement of uncertainty” for farmers, which could let plants reach as high as 0.5 percent THC and still be considered acceptable by the USDA. However, industry supporters and farmers alike have been pushing for a 1 percent THC limit for some time.

Colorado farmers are currently given a couple of weeks to lower plants’ THC levels if they test too high, but hemp’s legalization and close connection to marijuana has spurred concerns of increased black market marijuana activity among law enforcement in certain states. Hauser suggests that states like Colorado and Oregon — both of which have legal and established marijuana industries — are better prepared to deal with such concerns, but she adds that more evolved markets are better prepared to roll with federal changes, too.

“Colorado and other states, because they’re mature and have gone through these trials, kind of understand there is a need for remediation,” she adds. “But because Colorado has one of the most mature industries, some of the hemp markets have anticipated these changes.”

Federal hemp regulations that mandate 100 percent of hemp harvests to undergo THC testing would likely require more CDA staff, Hauser says, as this state’s agriculture department only has enough bandwidth to test about 25 percent of hemp crops right now. Further, the USDA rules call for such testing to take place at labs certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration — and there aren’t many.

And if hemp farmers lose their crops because of high THC levels, there’s little that could help them in the form of insurance, as the new federal crop insurance program for hemp isn’t likely to cover high THC levels, according to industry representatives.

Although the USDA rules are officially implemented today, the rules are only for the interim and will be replaced in two years; states have a year to either comply or send in their respective proposals for hemp regulations. The CDA’s Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP), a committee created by Governor Jared Polis to advance hemp policy in Colorado, will send the state’s hemp proposal to the USDA within the next few months in hopes of fully complying with the USDA by the 2020 farming season, according to Hauser.

“There are some areas for improvement, especially around testing, disposal and sampling,” Hauser says. “There is a public comment period — it’s incredibly significant for legalized hemp farmers — so it’s more important than ever to engage with the industry.”

One of Colorado’s largest hemp brands doesn’t see the USDA’s changes as a hindrance, welcoming the long-awaited federal guidance. According to Derek Thomas, vice president of business development for Veritas Farms, the USDA’s regulations will usher in a more defined and legal marketplace nationwide, which in turn will help Colorado’s hemp industry grow.

“Inside of the Colorado ecosystem, not much is going to change. Colorado has had a very robust legislative framework from the onset, and a lot of states have replicated that model,” he says. “Not a lot in Colorado will change too much. However, outside of Colorado, things like interstate commerce will see a lot less restriction from the federal government.”

With the USDA nearing completion of its hemp regulations, Thomas says the next domino that must fall is held by the Food and Drug Administration, the federal body responsible for regulating products with CBD and other cannabinoids derived from hemp. Currently, the FDA views CBD as an illegal ingredient for products meant for human and animal consumption, but admits that the agency lacks resources to enforce the policy as the largely unregulated CBD industry booms.

Veritas has deals with national drugstore chains to sell its CBD-infused lotions and topicals (products that are legal under FDA standards), but Thomas says that finding national carriers to sell its CBD tinctures and edibles is much harder in the current landscape.

“The big piece that is lingering now from the federal government is the FDA,” he says. “Most national chains are sticking to the wait-and-see model for guidance form the FDA, but we’ve seen a lot of regional retailers take interest in CBD ingestibles as we wait.”


Toke of the Town

Climate Change Hiking Danger of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Infections

FRIDAY, Aug. 23, 2019 — It’s a horrible fate: You take a cool dip in the ocean and become infected with flesh-eating bacteria.

Climate change is making this terrifying scenario more common in the northern part of the United States, one infectious disease expert says.

These infections are caused by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. There are about 80,000 such infections each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most infections resolve within a few days, but there are about 500 hospitalizations and 100 deaths each year due to such infections.

There are a number of ways to protect yourself, according to David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Vibrio bacteria can get into the body through open wounds. If you have any, it’s best to stay out of the water, especially brackish water. Cover the wound with a waterproof bandage if it’s likely to come into contact with water or raw seafood or raw seafood juices, Cennimo advised.

Cook all seafood thoroughly and wash your hands after handling raw shellfish, he added.

Most infections caused by Vibrio bacteria are gastrointestinal and cause food poisoning-like symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, abdominal pain and sometimes fever. Symptoms usually start one day after ingestion and last for three days.

Skin infections caused by the bacteria may be inflamed and red, with blisters. The site may also turn deep blue like a severe bruise. A fever may develop and confusion can occur in severe cases. Immediate emergency medical care is required because the infection can progress rapidly to death, Cennimo said.

For most people, the skin infection can be treated with antibiotics. However, necrotizing (flesh-eating) infections can be very serious and move very fast.

People especially at risk of severe and aggressive infection include those with a weakened immune system due to conditions such as liver disease, cancer, diabetes or HIV, and those who are on immune-suppressing therapy or are recovering from stomach surgery.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Vibrio infection.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: August 2019

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‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacteria On Rise With Climate Change

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 18, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A flesh-eating bacteria has migrated into the Delaware Bay between Delaware and New Jersey, drawn north by the warmer waters of climate change, doctors say.

Five cases of infection with Vibrio vulnificus occurred in 2017 and 2018 along the Delaware Bay, compared to one infection with the devastating bacteria in the eight years prior, researchers said.

The infections resulted in one death and multiple rounds of surgery to save the other patients. One had all his limbs removed at the elbows and knees due to severe bacterial infection, said Dr. Katherine Doktor, an infectious disease specialist at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J.

“In order to stop the infection, the person needs antibiotics and they need to be taken to the OR [operating room] quickly so any infected tissue can be removed, so it doesn’t spread further,” she said.

But Doktor added that the bacteria tends to strike hardest at people with pre-existing health problems like liver disease, diabetes, kidney failure or a compromised immune system.

“Just going to the beach or going to the bay is not going to make you sick,” she said. “These people usually have a cut and the infected water gets into the cut, or they eat raw seafood that’s infected.”

Vibrio bacteria cause an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States each year, with most infections in May through October when water temperatures are warm, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in five people with this type of infection die, sometimes within days of becoming ill, the CDC warns.

Because the bacteria thrive in warmer, salty water, it’s usually found mostly in southern waters, Doktor said.

But cases of Vibrio infection began showing up in emergency rooms along the Delaware Bay a few years back, Doktor and her colleagues reported June 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Four of the cases involved middle-aged or older men who had been crabbing in the bay or eating crabs taken from the bay, the doctors said. The fifth case involved a man who worked at a seafood restaurant in New Jersey.

Continued

Wound infections affecting a person’s limbs occur through breaks in the skin, while eating tainted seafood can cause intestinal and bloodstream infections, the researchers said. Large blood blisters start popping up at sites where skin cells are dying off, Doktor explained.

“On average, people need to be taken back to the OR two to four times to remove any tissue that has died,” she said.

It’s not just in the United States that Vibrio is migrating northward, Doktor said. In Europe, infections with the bacteria have extended as far north as Norway.

Dr. Amesh Adalja is a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in Baltimore. He said, “Vibrio vulnificus infections contracted in the Delaware Bay, an area not known to be endemic for the bacteria, should serve as an important reminder that infectious diseases can expand from their traditional areas so long as the environment is hospitable to them.” Adalja was not involved with the new report.

“If certain bodies of water have had temperature changes that allow Vibrio vulnificus to flourish in a new region, it will be important that clinicians have heightened awareness of this serious, and sometimes fatal, infection in order to diagnose and treat it appropriately,” Adalja added.

Doktor advised that shellfish lovers should exercise caution when having a seafood meal, especially if they have a health condition that compromises their body’s ability to stave off infection.

“Some people, when they shuck the crabs, they use gloves,” she said. “I would protect your skin by wearing gloves.”

You might want to think twice about hitting the raw bar, too.

“As an infectious disease physician, I don’t think people should be eating raw seafood,” Doktor said. “But if you don’t have any of these risk factors, the chance of infection is much, much lower.”

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Katherine Doktor, M.D., infectious disease specialist, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, N.J.; Amesh Adalja, M.D.,  senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore;  June 18, 2019,Annals of Internal Medicine, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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More Back-to-Back Heat Waves Will Come With Climate Change

WEDNESDAY, May 15, 2019 — Here’s another health danger climate change will deliver in the coming years: New research warns that back-to-back heat waves that go on for days will become more common as the planet warms.

The elderly and the poor will be the least prepared to weather this threat, the investigators noted. But hospital ERs and emergency service providers will also be vulnerable to the public health havoc that such “compound heat waves” will likely inflict.

“By compound heat wave, we mean multiple heat waves — or possibly individual extremely hot days — occurring one after the other separated by short cooler breaks,” explained study author Jane Wilson Baldwin. She’s a postdoctoral research associate with the Princeton Environmental Institute in New Jersey.

An example, Baldwin said, would be five extremely hot days, followed by a respite of a couple of cooler days, and then three more extremely hot days.

Such repetitive scorchers are not confined to some distant future, the study found. They are already here, with heat waves and droughts currently pegged as the direct cause of roughly 20% of natural disaster deaths in the continental United States, more than any other single natural cause.

“However, these events will become significantly more common with global warming,” noted Baldwin.

“In the present climate, only about 10% of heat waves exhibit these compound structures. Without drastic changes to carbon emissions, we project that by 2050 that proportion should rise to about 30%, indicating a dramatic change in the character of heat waves, and possibly how society needs to prepare for them,” she said.

The study looked at a series of climate simulations generated by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, in conjunction with the Princeton Environmental Institute and its Atmosphere Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

The simulations examined weather patterns dating as far back as 1861 and as far ahead as 2100. They used two possible carbon dioxide (CO2) emission scenarios: one with levels steady at 1990 numbers (which have long since been exceeded), and another in which 1990 levels doubled.

At 1990 levels heat waves were minimal, adding up to about 10 days per summer, with only 10% subject to compound heat waves.

But in the doubling scenario, the number of heat wave days was pegged as eventually rising sevenfold, with tropical regions most at risk. A quarter of those days were subject to compound heat wave cycles.

Overall, heat waves were projected to become more common and to last longer, with fewer cool days in between.

Baldwin and her colleagues reported their findings recently in the journal Earth’s Future.

For now, the team “stopped short of directly quantifying the human impacts of these events,” noted Baldwin.

But grave public health results are a distinct possibility. For example, an overtaxed electric grid may lead to increasingly frequent and lengthy blackouts and brownouts, rendering air conditioners useless, and leaving increasing numbers of people — particularly seniors — without access to lifesaving cool shelter. This may also be accompanied by a weakened food supply chain, due to the heat-prompted withering of agriculture and livestock resources, Baldwin said.

What’s more, over the next few decades the projected heat wave trends are likely unavoidable, she said.

“Global warming and heat wave changes through 2050 are essentially locked in,” Baldwin said. And that means adaptation is key, “such as increased AC and improved building ventilation; staying in shady, cool places and drinking more water; [and] hospital wards preparing for potentially more frequent heat stress victims.”

The problem is that “this adaptation is likely to be relatively easy for rich countries and people, and much harder for the poor and otherwise socioeconomically underprivileged, who already suffer the most from heat waves in the present,” Baldwin explained.

Kristie Ebi is director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle. She agreed that going forward, “individuals and communities need to be better prepared to manage temperatures outside the range of what we consider normal.

“The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increase the number and intensity of heat waves over the next couple of decades,” Ebi said.

“Based on the current number of illnesses and deaths during heat waves,” Ebi added, “it is reasonable to assume the numbers would increase with more compound heat waves, if additional actions to increase awareness and preparedness are not taken.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the perils of extreme heat.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019

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Will Climate Change Cause Food Sources to Dwindle?

Peter de Menocal, PhD, director, Center for Climate and Life, Columbia University.

Lewis Ziska, PhD, research plant physiologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

North Dakota State University: “Too much rain?”

Nate Powell-Palm, farmer, Belgrade, MT.

Michelle Tigchelaar, PhD, climate scientist, Stanford University Center for Ocean Solutions.

Mike Rivington, PhD, James Hutton Institute, Scotland.

Donald Ort, PhD, the Robert Emerson professor of plant biology and crop sciences, University of Illinois.

Jonathan Patz, MD, director, Global Health Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Nature: “Recent patterns of crop yield growth and stagnation.”

The Nature Education Knowledge Project: “Soil carbon storage.”

Rural Sociology: “Soil as Social-Ecological Feedback: Examining the ‘Ethic’ of Soil Stewardship among Corn Belt Farmers.”

Penn State University: “The Future of Food.”

The Conversation: “Climate change will make rice less nutritious.”

Environmental Health Perspectives: “Rising CO2, Climate Change, and Public Health: Exploring the Links to Plant Biology.”

The Conversation: “Together more heat and more carbon dioxide may not alter quantity or nutritional value of crops.”

Nature Communications: “Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture.”

Nature Communications: “Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century.”

Social Science Society of America: “How Will Climate Change Affect Agriculture?”

Purdue University: “Study: Farmers and scientists divided over climate chane.”

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Climate Change Could Worsen Sneezin’ Season

WEDNESDAY, April 10, 2019 — Have you started feeling like your allergies are acting up earlier every year, or maybe they’re lasting longer?

New research suggests it’s not just your imagination — climate change appears to be disrupting nature’s usual calendar.

Areas with an earlier spring had a 14% higher rate of seasonal allergies (hay fever), the researchers found.

“Climate change is real. It’s impacting our ecosystem now, and that, in turn, is impacting our health,” said study author Amir Sapkota. He’s an associate professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health in College Park, Md.

For the study, the investigators used high-resolution satellite data provided by NASA to identify the start of spring throughout the United States. They linked this information to data from a nationally representative sample of Americans collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sapkota said the researchers looked at what happened if spring began earlier or later than normal.

“When spring starts early, the burden of allergic disease — or hay fever — goes up. But we also saw high hay fever prevalence when spring was late, too. It’s like mortality with extreme temperatures. Temperatures that are very hot or very cold can kill us. There’s a sweet spot that’s OK,” Sapkota explained.

If the season starts early, trees bloom and release pollen earlier than usual and may release pollen for a longer time. “This is not a good thing if you’re suffering from allergies,” he said.

Sapkota said the findings for increased problems if spring was delayed were a surprise. He doesn’t know exactly why the late spring would make allergies worse, but suspects it may be because everything then blooms at once — trees, flowers, grasses.

“All of a sudden, things go gangbusters at one time. The season may end up shorter, but you’re bombarded by it,” he said.

Dr. John Balbus, senior advisor for public health at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, reviewed the study.

He said, “This is the first confirmation from health data that changes in the length and timing of spring could lead to a higher prevalence of allergy symptoms.”

Balbus said the changes in spring’s timing aren’t uniform across the United States. “There’s a trend over time to earlier pollen seasons as you go up to more Northern latitudes attributable to climate change. It’s up to a few weeks earlier by the Canadian border, but not so much in Texas,” he noted.

But an earlier spring isn’t always the case. “What we are seeing in a lot of meteorological data is a trend to increasing variability,” Balbus said. For example, the East Coast had a colder winter due to a drop in the polar vortex, which may delay the blooming season.

So what does all this mean for allergy sufferers?

Allergist Dr. Punita Ponda from Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., said, “For most allergy sufferers, the old dogma of starting preventive medications in mid-March or so is not going to be enough.”

She said people with spring allergies will have to start paying attention to pollen counts in April and may need to start taking their allergy prevention drugs in late February if pollen counts start spiking. And, she said, they may need to continue taking these medications until at least mid-June.

“They may need to take medications for longer. And for brief periods of time, more medication may be necessary,” she said. She advised people to contact their doctor for specific instructions based on their situation.

The report was published online recently in the journal PLoS ONE.

More information

Read more about climate change and the effects on health from the American Public Health Association.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: April 2019

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Time Change Tougher for Kids With Mental Health Issues